A Jesuit's Journey:
Fr. John Staudenmaier, SJ
September, 2022 — At the age of 24, prior to his ordination, Fr. John Staudenmaier, SJ, would lay awake at night contemplating his purpose in life. At the time, he struggled with believing in anything, but his spiritual journey would be transformed with the guidance of his mentor and companion Fr. Ed Foot, SJ, and his regency at the Holy Rosary Mission at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.
At first, Fr. Staudenmaier was told by province leadership that he would most likely be doing his regency at Marquette University High School or in Argentina, where many young Jesuits were being missioned to at the time.
But, in a twist of events, Fr. Staudenmaier was sent to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, which he says became an enormous turning point in his life. When he arrived at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, Fr. Staudenmaier quickly realized that he didn’t know how to teach anyone, let alone a combination of grade school and high school students. When he began teaching, the school was seeing a decline in enrollment, with many students leaving. Knowing this, Fr. Staudenmaier worked diligently to be the best teacher he could for the community. He says, “I was immersed in realizing that I was a very small person in a very large world, and it wasn’t much like where I grew up at all.”
Father Staudenmaier still makes frequent trips to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, and he has stayed in touch with some of the people he met during his regency for over 40 years now. The relationships he built at Pine Ridge have been the most important to him during his time as a Jesuit.
After his regency at Pine Ridge, Fr. Staudenmaier went back to school to receive his doctorate in the history of technology and engineering at the University of Pennsylvania, a field he would come to be known as an expert in. After completing his doctoral studies, Fr. Staudenmaier began to think about where his work would take him next and subsequently interviewed at three Jesuit universities—Fordham University, Santa Clara University, and University of Detroit Mercy.
At the time, Fr. Robert “Bob” Mitchell, SJ, a role model of Fr. Staudenmaier’s, had just been selected as the new president of University of Detroit Mercy.
Though he held the other universities in high esteem, after careful consideration, he chose to serve at University of Detroit Mercy, where he felt he was most needed. Father Mitchell advised Fr. Staudenmaier to “grab an oar” and help guide the Jesuit community in Detroit. His service at University of Detroit Mercy became a defining part of his Jesuit ministry, as he lived and worked at the university for over 30 years.
During his time at University of Detroit Mercy, Fr. Staudenmaier served as a professor of the history of technology and engineering ethics, an interim dean for the College of Liberal Arts and Education, a trustee to the university, and as assistant to the president of mission and identity.
Today, Fr. Staudenmaier lives in community with fellow senior Jesuits at Colombiere Center in Clarkston, Michigan, and he keeps busy reading and exchanging poems.